Friday, April 1, 2011

A Conversation with Qeshi Alazar Mengistu

Part III

Issayas: In 1982, Dr. Araia Tseggai editor of a journal called Journal of Eritrean Studies,wrote about Qeshi Marcos Ghirmay . In it he mentioned that Qeshi Marcos was an Eritrean evangelist who graduated with distinction in 1889 from Johannelund Theological Institute. After his ordination, he came back to Eritrea. In December 1899, Qeshi Marocs married Regina Johansson in Eritrea. To make the story short, this union did not bode well with the then Italian governor Ferdinando Martini. He put pressure on the Swedish Evangelical Church. In order for the couple to work and remain in Eritrea, the Swedish missionaries were not to send Eritreans to Sweden for future studies. Do you have anything to add?
Qeshi Alazar: I’m glad you raise this point. Qeshi Marcos was one of the students who were sent by the Swedish missionaries to Sweden. The others were Qeshi Tewoldemedhin and Natnael Djigo (a brilliant student from Barentu who died in Sweden in 1884. He is buried in Sweden). Qeshi Marcos graduated in distinction and he is still remembered in Sweden. Qeshi Marcos and Regina were married in secret. When the government of Maritni found out he put pressure on the Swedish missionaries. One thing though, there was a meeting held in Edinburgh, Scotland. In the meeting there were members from the American Evangelical Mission and the Swedish Evangelical Mission. In the meeting a decision was reached. That was, instead of sending future indigenous potential evangelists to Europe, the students would be sent to a school that was to be established in Beirut, Lebanon. As a result a school was established. That was why, for example, the two sons of Qeshi Tewoldemedhin (Memhir Yishak and Ephrem) were sent there for their studies.

 Natnael Djigo in 1880


Tewoldemedhin Gebremedhin in 1880

Qeshi Marcos Ghirmay in 1880

Issayas: There are some people that I talked to who are confused about the Kolmodins. Part of the confusion is that there were two people (father and son). Adolph Kolmodin and his son, Johannes Kolmodin. Would you tell us about them briefly?

Qeshi Alazar: Professor Adolph Kolmodin was the spiritual father and teacher of the first students (Qeshi Marcos Ghirmay, Onesimos Nesib, Natnael, etc.) from Massawa Mission School in Eritrea at Johannelund. At the same period, Professor Kolmodin was the leader of the Mission Board of the Evangelist Fosterlandsstiftelsen-EFS. It was during this time that a split broke out with a well known theology teacher at the University of Uppsala. After Adolph Kolmodin wrote a book, a split resulted between EFS and BV. Adolph Kolmodin was the father of Johannes Kolmodin who was well known in Eritrea. He was a student of classical semetic languages. He did research in Eritrea and compiled Zanta Hazegan Tseazegan.

Johannes Kolmodin

Issayas: I want people to buy your new book, therefore, without going too much into detail, what is the title and message of your new ( second) book.

Qeshi Alazar: First, the title of my book is Megedi mis weddi Aaddi, Bahln lemden in Eritrea.
The direct translation in English is "Travel with your fellow countryman". In short, through the book, I want to share with the young people the rich customs and traditions of Eritrea. The tradition is conveyed through narration.

Issayas: How could people get hold of your books?

Qeshi Alazar: For people in Europe:
My address is Tornfalkgatan 23, S 703 49 Örebro, Sweden, tel +46 10 223.

or through Admas Books :
Admas Forlag c/o Ghebre, Hallonberg.19, S-172 43 Sundbyberg, Sweden

Otherwise through my mail-address:

For people in the US:

Neghesty Negusse,
11903 Cliffgaten Dr,
Houston TX 77072.


Tel office 281-879-1366, Fax 281-879-1716

Issayas: Thank you for your time and insight. And good luck with your books!
Qeshi Alazar: You’re welcome.

The following is taken from Journal of Eritrean Studies Vol. IV 1982 written by Dr. Araia Tseggai.
During the period of Italian colonialism in Eritrea, an apartheid system was imposed. Marriage between a European and an Eritrean was prohibited. There was a case in which the Italian Governor of Eritrea, Ferdinando Martini, declared a union between Keshi Marcos Ghirmay of Quazien and Regina Johansson, a Swedish citizen, as “detrimental to the prestige of the European race”.
Qeshi Marcos was an Eritrean evangelist who graduated with distinction in 1889 from Johannelund Theological Institute in Stockholm. He came back to Eritrea after being ordained by the Archbishop of Uppsala. While in Eritrea, he fell in love with a Swedish missionary teacher Regina Johansson, and they married in December 1899. Governor Martini demanded 'rectification' by forcing the bride to leave Eritrea in order to maintain the status quo.
The Swedish Evangelical Church, which was against the marriage, promised Governor Martini that no Eritrean would be sent to Sweden for schooling from then on. In return Governor Martini allowed the couple to stay together inside Eritrea in a restricted atmosphere. Despite the compromise, Qeshi Marcos and Regina decided to leave for Sweden in 1922.